March 14, 2001   

   Tools cut data down to size
Making sense of reality is easy for most people thanks to the way our brains evolved. But computers can easily become swamped in the sea of sensory input that we take for granted. Our skill boils down to seeing less than what we're looking at. Two teams of researchers are trying to capture in software our uncanny ability to realize that it's still Aunt Grace when she turns her head.
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Ribbons expand nanotech toolbox
Add nanoscale ribbons to the tiny toolkit of Buckyballs, nanotubes and nanowires. The flat fibers are transparent and semiconducting, making them handy for optics and electronics.

Silicon cages metal atoms
Wrap individual metal atoms in silicon and you have a new material for making computer chips. These caged atoms could also be just the ticket for researchers trying to make quantum computers.

Surfaces channel liquids
Make a hydrophilic path on a hydrophobic surface and guess where water will flow. Make the right kind of sandwich and you don't need to bother making tiny pipes for those bio chips.

Chip impurities make quantum bits
All semiconductor chips contain a few unwanted atoms. But what looks like impurities to some look like budding quantum computers to others.

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